The Minnesota Republican party is in shambles after multiple complaints that its chair Jennifer Carnahan created and oversaw a highly toxic environment of casual racism and sexism at all levels of the organization that resulted in many people leaving in disgust.
In conversations with seven current and former staffers of the Minnesota Republican Party, most of them women who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, all shared similar experiences of racism and sexual harassment or assault by high-level employees of the state organization.
Likewise, all outlined a pattern of reprisal from Carnahan targeting anyone who spoke out about these and other issues within the organization, subjecting employees and even some activists affiliated with the party to repeated verbal abuse.
Two former staffers even described sustained harassment campaigns directed against them and others that included male staffers showing up at their homes at odd hours — an apparent intimidation tactic — and drastic measures like withholding paychecks for anyone who complained about Carnahan or her top lieutenants’ behavior.
The state’s College Republicans chapter also released a statement last week alleging that Carnahan covered up the sexual assault and rape of a member of the Republican youth organization — choosing not to act when the accusations were brought to her attention and maintaining a public friendship with the accused even after he left his job in politics.
Anton Lazzaro, one of the state party’s top donors and a close personal friend of Carnahan’s, was indicted for child sex trafficking — alongside a rising College Republican star, Gisela Castro Medina, who chaired the University of St. Thomas College Republicans. Federal prosecutors allege the pair recruited and abused at least five minor victims in a scheme Carnahan maintains she knew nothing about.
You can read the article for all the details of what went on.
But what I wanted to focus on is how such awful people rise to high levels in organizations in the first place. Carnahan is by no means an outlier and political organizations are not the only ones in which people who have such glaring faults that should disqualify them from high positions somehow rise to the top. I am pretty certain that every person reading this has had experience with such a person personally in their workplaces or knows someone who has. How can this happen? It cannot be that such people took a serious turn for the worse only after they rose to the top. People’s characters and personalities do not change so much so quickly. While it is true that power corrupts, it usually takes some time to do its work. The signs of having an abusive personality must have been visible long before. Why were alarm bells not ringing all over the place warning that placing such sociopaths in positions of authority would likely result in serious problems down the road?
The only reason that I can come up with is that as these people were rising up the ladder, they did not have the opportunity or the license to express the full extent of their sociopathic qualities and those around them saw just a mild form of it that they could overlook as merely unpleasant quirks that would not affect the functioning of the organization too badly.
Parkinson’s Law famously said that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and has spawned a lot of corollaries. Perhaps another corollary should be added: “The abusive behavior of sociopaths increases to the extent that it is enabled to do so.”